Making Lunches at Home Can Save a Bundle

 

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

I felt two sets of eyes watching me as I made a ham and cheese sandwich for my daughter to take on her school field trip. The eyes belonged to two of our dachshunds. They were licking their lips, too.

They’re hungry, I thought to myself. I filled their bowls with dog food and continued preparing food.

My other daughter decided she wanted a sandwich for breakfast, so I made another sandwich and put it on a plate. She brought it to the living room and set it on the coffee table where she was assembling her things for school. I should have put it on the kitchen table.

After the dogs finished their breakfast, it was time for them to go outside. They raced toward the patio door.

I heard a squeal. I ran into the living room just as Jake, one of the dachshunds, stood on his hind legs and gripped the side of the coffee table with his paws, leaning his head onto my daughter’s plate.

“Jake stole my sandwich!” my younger daughter yelled. She began jumping up and down.

My older daughter began wrestling with our exuberant dog, who had the sandwich firmly gripped in his teeth. She was trying to pry the sandwich out of his mouth.

“Let go. We don’t want the sandwich back,” I said.

In two gulps, the sandwich was gone. At least our dog didn’t eat anyone’s homework.

Soon I was back in the kitchen making another sandwich. Making lunches at home can be pretty exciting.

Making your lunches helps you manage calories and overall nutrition and usually saves you money, too. According to national news reports, more workers began bringing their lunch to save money during challenging economic times.

Lunch expenses vary depending on your choice of restaurant. You can get a $5 fast-food special or pay $10 or more for a sit-down lunch.

For example, if you eat lunch at restaurants five days a week at an average cost of $7, your monthly expenditure would be $140. During a year’s time, that adds up to $1,680.

Instead, if you bring your own lunch, at an average cost of $2 to $4, your yearly lunch tab would be $520 to $1,040.

Even if you enjoy an occasional lunch at a restaurant, you still could save about $1,000 a year by bringing your own lunch most of the time.

However, bringing perishable food with you carries some safety considerations. According to the standard rule of thumb, perishable foods, such as meat-containing sandwiches and leftover casseroles, should spend no more than two hours at room temperature.

To keep your lunch safe, take note of the limitations on cooking and storage at your destination. If your lunch needs refrigeration but refrigeration is not available, use frozen gel packs and an insulated cooler to keep your food cold.

Many types of sandwiches freeze well but will thaw by lunchtime if placed in a lunchbox early in the morning. You also can pack nonperishable items such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Here are some other lunch-packing tips:

  • To save time, pack your lunch during the cleanup after your evening meal.
  • Consider making a little extra food for dinner. Bring your “planned-overs” for lunch.
  • Pack a fruit and a vegetable to help you meet your daily fruit and veggie recommendations. For example, add some strawberries and baby carrots to round out a sandwich and yogurt.
  • Don’t reuse brown bags because bacteria can grow and contaminate tomorrow’s lunch. To keep foods cold, try one of the reusable and cleanable plastic-lined, insulated lunch bags.
  • To transport hot foods such as soup or chili, rinse a thermos with boiling water just before filling it with hot food.

Here’s a sandwich recipe courtesy of the Wheat Foods Council at www.wheatfoods.org. Visit www.ndsu.edu/eatsmart for more recipes and food- and nutrition-related information.

Chicken and Cashew Salad in a Pita

1/2 c. light or fat-free mayonnaise or salad dressing
1 Tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 Tbsp. peanut butter
1 c. cooked, chopped chicken (such as leftover grilled chicken)
1/2 c. Chinese peapods cut in half
1/2 c. chopped red or yellow sweet peppers
1/4 c. roasted peanuts
3 whole-wheat pita breads, cut in half

Mix ingredients, except peanuts, and refrigerate at least one hour. Just before serving, stir in peanuts and spoon into pita pockets.

Makes six sandwiches, one-half sandwich per serving. Each serving has 219 calories, 8 grams (g) of fat, 25 grams of carbohydrate, 4 g of fiber and 615 milligrams of sodium.

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